As principals, teachers, parents, students and community volunteers prime themselves for the Brigada Eskwela, a waste and pollution watchdog group released a timely set of tips espousing chemical safety and zero waste in schools.

The annual “bayanihan sa paaralan,” the EcoWaste Coalition said, offers an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and promote practical measures that will contribute to a healthy, toxics-free school environment.

 “We encourage our school administrators and the rest of the school community to keep chemical safety and zero waste in mind as they make preparations and excitedly take part in the actual clean-up, repair and renovation of our public schools,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition

 “Implementing the essential tips we have crafted will surely help in minimizing waste and pollution, including avoiding toxic exposures, during the Brigada Eskwela and beyond,” she added.

Here are the 15-point tips for chemical safety and zero waste schools from the EcoWaste Coalition:

1.  Avoid the use of plastic tarpaulins, which may contain toxic cadmium and/or lead, for public announcements; opt for coconut or taffeta cloth for banners, and maximize the social media to reach out to school stakeholders.

2.  Refrain from bringing single-use plastics into the school; in lieu of disposables, bring food and water in reusable containers that can be washed and safely reused.

3.  Segregate waste from the clean-up at source to facilitate reuse, recycling or composting, and to cut the volume of garbage for disposal.

4.  Say no to open burning, an illegal act, which releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and particulate matter, persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, and heavy metals and other toxic chemicals.

5.  Compost biodegradable discards such as grass clippings and fallen leaves to produce natural fertilizer or soil enhancer for the school garden.

6.  Spruce up the school’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF); clean the containers or segregators for properly-labeled recyclable and compostable discards; assign a separate container for hazardous waste such as fluorescent lamps and other e-waste.

7.  Handle busted fluorescent lamps with care to prevent mercury spill; do not burn or mix such lamps with ordinary trash; properly store and dispose of them as hazardous waste.

8.  Go for mercury-free and more energy efficient LED lights and only pick those with ICC stickers or PS marks.

9.  Choose safer cleaning products and refrain from using hazardous cleaning agents that are corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract such as oxalic and muriatic acid; read product labels carefully, be mindful of hazard pictograms and precautionary warnings, and follow safety instructions.

10.  Do not mix bleach with other cleaning products such as ammonia and acids to prevent the formation of extremely injurious toxic vapors, which can poison or kill.

11.  Use only lead-safe paints, as required by DepEd D.O. 4, s.2017, for school interiors, exteriors, furniture and fixtures, gymnasium, play equipment and other school amenities.

12.  Refrain from dry sanding or dry scraping painted surfaces as it might contain lead and thus disperse lead dust into the surroundings; keep children and pregnant women out of the work area (lead is hazardous to babies in the womb).

13.  Use a moist mop or rag to rid floors, windows, window frames and sills, chairs and tables and other surfaces of dust, and wash it thoroughly after use.

14.  Keep the school premises smoke-free by not smoking or vaping.

15.  Wash hands properly with soap and water before meals and after the Brigada Eskwela chores are done.